Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers went into the postseason with the weight of the world on their collective shoulders. Previous October runs have fallen short of a World Series title and with Kershaw factoring prominently in multiple losses, it’s left a stain on his reputation.
Of course, there are several factors behind some of Kershaw’s shortcomings in the postseason. Among them being instances in which the Dodgers regularly asked him to start on short rest and appear out of the bullpen.
This year has been different, however, as the club has remained diligent in their handling of Kershaw. No more has that been evident than in the World Series. Kershaw threw an efficient 78 pitches over six innings in Game 1 and was removed due to the Dodgers holding a comfortable lead.
Manager Dave Roberts then brought the hook with two outs in the sixth inning of Game 5. Kershaw had only thrown 85 pitches and settled into a rhythm — retiring seven in a row, including the last two on consecutive pitches — after the Tampa Bay Rays had the leadoff man reach in the first four innings.
Kershaw attempted to negotiate his way into remaining in the game, and Justin Turner also lobbied for him as well, though to no avail. A pro-Dodgers crowd at Globe Life Field gave the 32-year-old a standing ovation as he walked into the dugout.
“I think any time you can have success in the postseason it just means so much,” Kershaw said. “It’s what you work for, it’s what you play for. I know what the other end of that feels like too, so I’ll definitely take it when I can get it.”
Kershaw acknowledged he pitched without a sharp slider and curveball having his sharpest slider. He nonetheless ascended past Justin Verlander for the most strikeouts in postseason history, now at 207.
“Just means I’ve been on great teams that have gone to the postseason a lot and I’ve gotten to make a lot of starts,” Kershaw said. “Obviously a very special opportunity. It’s just a special thing to get to be a part of a team like this and get to be a part of some of those names.”
Most of all, Kershaw was proud to have been part of moving the Dodgers one win closer to their goal and pleasing his children. “I think Cali will remember the bubble time,” Kershaw said as his daughter and her brother danced around the table from which the interview was being conducted.
Kershaw now has two wins in a single postseason series for the first time in his career. He vowed to make himself available for Game 6 or a potential Game 7, though Dodgers manager Dave Roberts indicated the latter was more likely.
“We’re just very lucky to have him and I couldn’t be any happier the postseason he’s had mirrors who he is as a pitcher. He deserves it,” Roberts added.
Family affair in Texas
With the Dodgers playing essentially the entire postseason inside MLB’s bubble at Globe Life Field, it’s afforded Kershaw the opportunity to pitch his backyard. It’s created a bit of a unique situation due to not being able to visit his Dallas home or with family and friends, but also led to family being in attendance.
“This year has been weird, special, different in a lot of ways. I think to get to be here, last minute we were able to get a few extra nosebleed seats, so we got to bring an extra 10 or so people,” Kershaw said.
“That wouldn’t happen any other time because travel is so hard right now with what’s going on in the country. So thankful that family and friends are getting to come to World Series games that I get to be a part of.
“I don’t want to say it’s working out the way I wanted it to, just because being at Dodger Stadium would be awesome too. But to get to have family and friends here, get to have as packed of a house as it can be and it seems like it’s all Dodger fans, is very special as well.”
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